09 Nov 2010
I recently had the privilege of visiting Maryhill Winery as part of a press familiarization trip. As I sift back through my notes to re-live the adventure, two thoughts come to mind. This is an awesome place to visit. The wines are an amazing quality to price ratio (QPR)…all 29 of them. Founded in 1999, Maryhill Winery has grown to 80,000 cases making it the 15th largest winery in the state and one of the largest family owned wineries. Craig and Vicki Leuthold, from Spokane, WA are passionately involved in every step of the journey.
Situated on the Washington side of the Columbia River, Maryhill is about 90 minutes from Portland, 4 hours from Spokane and about 3 ½ hours from Seattle. Maryhill Winery sits perched above the mighty Columbia with breathtaking east to west views of the gorge, Mt Hood, and the dramatic river as it cuts through the basalt. Surrounded by 85 acres (Gunkel Vineyards), the winery is a beautiful destination for weary travelers, vacation seekers and wine lovers. Maryhill welcomes over 75,000 people per year. Visitors enjoy concerts at the 4,000 seat amphitheater and award winning wine.
Early on, Maryhill embraced the value proposition when other Washington wineries were exploring higher priced boutique business models. With wines over $30 selling at 20% of the levels seen in years past, the $10-$20 price point wine is the sweet spot. Maryhill’s flagship wine, the Winemaker’s Red, which makes up 30% of their production, sells for only $14 in the tasting room and can often be found for under $10 at retail establishments. How is the wine? My notes say…
“Dark red fruits with fragrance of lilacs and campfire with a medium mouth feel, well integrated oak and tannin. 3/5”
What impressed me most about the visit with the Leuthold’s was the genuine joy they had for running the winery. They live on site above the winery in a wonderfully decorated loft style space. Their Great Pyrenees, Potter, welcomes guests and helps with bottling and distribution on the lower level. When you visit you’ll often find Craig directing traffic in the parking lot and Vicki pouring wine in the tasting room. During our two day visit we had the opportunity to enjoy all 29 wines from the Maryhill line up. The majority of their white wines can be found in stores around $10 and the standard red wines are available for $13-$16. The “reserve” wines are available between $20-$35 with the price points topping out at $36 for Reserve Zinfandel, $38 for Reserve Cabernet and $40 for Proprietors Reserve Serendipity.
Tasting through 29 wines (along with wines from 2 other wineries) can be a challenge. Luckily for you, I’m here to take the brunt of the burden (hey, it’s a rough life but someone has to do it).
This is a bold statement, but every wine was of good quality. There were two wines that weren’t in my wheelhouse, but all the rest provided exceptional value. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending any of the wines I tried. While I didn’t particularly care for the fruit profile of the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2009 Rose of Sangiovese, the following wines stood out in my memory banks:
2008 Viognier $15 – Nose offers a combination of toasted almonds and floral fragrance. A round mouth feel compliments the nicely balanced finish. 4/5
2006 Sangiovese $18 – Bright fruit with strong acidity on the finish. The flavor is smooth and spicy and feels like a burst of juicy fruit in the mouth. 4/5
2006 Reserve Grenache $20 – 100% Grenache on the estate Gunkel vineyards, 20 months on 40% new French oak. A smooth and elegant fruit with a subtle hint of spice nicely compliment the medium tart tannin and crisp acidic finish. 4+/5
2007 Reserve Zinfandel $36 – 100% Zinfandel from Milbrandt and Alder Ridge vineyards. 70% new French oak, 1.6% residual sugar and huge 16.4% ABV. The Zin is sinfully delicious with big lush jammy fruit that includes cordial cherries, strawberries and hints of pepper. The wine is full of layers and explodes with flavor in the mouth. 4+/5
In conclusion, this is a place that I’m excited to go back and visit with friends and family. While Maryhill is a destination winery, they aren’t gouging you with their prices, nor are they trying to pass off inferior juice. I can’t wait to see next year’s concert line up. Chance are you’ll see me and my wife at least once.
Make a Day of It
Make a day of your trip to the area and visit the Maryhill Museum and Stonehenge memorial along with the John Day Dam and historic town of The Dalles. Maryhill Winery was recently rated 2009 Washington Winery of the Year by Wine Press NW and Best Destination Winery by Seattle Magazine.
- From The Oregon Wine Blog: The Columbia Gorge’s Maryhill Winery
One part Italian food, one part Italian wine, mix in a country hillside and a dash of vineyard, round it out with a large helping of family and love, you have Trezzi Farm Food and Wine. No other tasting room in Spokane offers helpings of Polenta, Lasagna, and Pasta along with estate grown wine. You had me at Italian food. Davide and Stephanie Trezzi moved to Spokane in 2005 on a friends insisting and fell in love with the Greenbluff area. There, they bought 20 acres of land and began their new adventure.
Trezzi makes food that is simple, full of flavor, and expresses what he grew up eating. “We’re simple people, we make simple food that is full of flavor,” says Davide. After opening the catering business, the Trezzi’s (pronounced with the same ‘zz’ as pizza), planted a vineyard. A vineyard in Spokane, “what the heck was I thinking,” Davide recalls. This adventure in farming explored the planting of Italian grapes Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Dolcetto. In 2008, Davide and Stephanie finally saw the fruits of their labor as they collected their first harvest of Barbera. Recently the Trezzi’s planted additional acreage of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). Weather permitting we should see this experiment in Spokane winegrowing produce a harvest.
Times were tough. Growing grapes in Spokane is not an easy task. The Trezzi’s battle the short growing season, unpredictable frosts not to mention the deer, birds and wind. One day a fierce wind threatened their dream of estate vineyards with gusts that knocked the canopy off the trestle. Davide was faced with the choice to leave the newly planted vines to lay windblown and useless or work to reattach the vines to ensure a future harvest. “They become like your children,” Stephanie said as we drank from the result of Davide’s decision to work late into the night.
As if to honor the release of their first vintage, Davide and Stephanie transformed their old tractor barn into a beautiful tasting room complete with a panoramic view of the hillside beyond. The 2008 Barbera is a youthful medium bodied wine that complements the strong acidic pasta dishes perfectly. The wine is meant to be paired with the food. The food is meant to be paired with the wine. Both are meant to paired with life. Trezzi Farms caters with their fantastic Italian menu of pasta, polenta, lasagna, meatballs, rustic chicken and tri-tip beef. On any given day people can be seen picking up pre-packaged meals to take home. Now, there is a wine to pair with those meals.
Trezzi, along with winemaker Don Townshend, created 289 cases of estate grown Barbera (the only vintage grown estate fruit in Spokane), and a Columbia Valley Sauvignon Blanc. 100% of the wines are sold out of the tasting room. Do yourself a favor and plan a trip to Greenbluff. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy some wine. Buy a bottle or two of Barbera and some lasagna, and enjoy a meal that is completely created here in Spokane.
- Web Site: www.trezzifarm.com
- Address: 17700 N Dunn Rd (Greenbluff) MAP
- Retail Store Hours: 10-6 daily
- Tasting Room Hours: Noon-6pm Friday-Sunday
Call to use Trezzi for catering your small or large event 509-238-2276
30 Mar 2010
Tops from Taste Washington
This weekend I had the privilege of attending Taste Washington on behalf of my DrinkNectar.com wine blog. It was an honor to represent the East Side (of WA) and to help the Washington Wine Commission with their first ever WWTV series of events. I have to give MAD PROPS to Yashar Shayan for all his work in orchestrating the technology and herding cats (wine bloggers / writers / nerds/winos). 15 interviews and a few seminars are available at the Taste WA UStream Channel. Scroll down to see the two DrinkNectar exclusives!
For my wife and me, the event consisted of the seminars on Saturday, six hours of tasting on Sunday, and then a topless wino’s gone wild party at Purple Restaurant (okay, everyone’s tops stayed on). I’ll be giving a full write up of the experiences that should come out Wednesday or Thursday, but in the meantime, here is a fun list of my most memorable experiences!
Meeting the Twitterati
I can’t even begin to count the number of “friends” that I met in real life for the first time. Because of Twitter, it was like I already knew everyone I met. The meetings were exuberant and full of hugs! Some notables (my apologies if I forget any) @wawinereport, @clivity @winomagazine @bricksofwine @divatink @shona425 @nwtotemcellars @sojengirl @sojencellars @winefoot @writeforwine @tomcwark @pmabray @deniseslattery @chefmangna @decanterbanter @wabrokers @nicoleevents @tarynmiller @dearcheri @yasharseattle @hardrow@winepeeps @czcellars @watastingroom @seattlewinegal and more!
I’ll go in more detail on Saturday’s seminar tastings where I got to taste amazing wine from Gramercy Cellars, Cote Bonneville, and Col Solare in the full wrap up. During the grand tasting Sunday, there were probably over 1000 wines to taste. We probably tasted (and spit) close to 75 different wines. During tastings like this there are several good wines, but here are the five that stick in my mind!
K Vintners – Motor City Kitty; 2007 Syrah ($30)
Pepperbridge – Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($55)
Nodland Cellars – Private Blend 2005 ($35)
Betz Family Winery– Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($65)
NW Totem Cellars – Late Harvest Viognier 2006 ($28)
Food to Dine For
Picazo 7Seventeen – Chef Mangana was serving an amazing Lamb Chop and the chocolate dessert goodie was heavenly (wish I knew more about what made it so great)
An Affair to Remember
Hotel Max Seattle – Swank, sleek, urban, artsy, and beautiful come to mind when describing the Hotel Max. Factor in the comfy room, city views, and central location – this is a must stop. “Dear Hotel Max, thank you for sleeping with me.”
Legends and Stars
I consider myself lucky to have spent a few hours with Paul Mabray, of VinTank fame and Tom Wark of, well…of Tom Wark fame. Not only do I feel like I got a masters course in marketing and wine business, my head was spinning with ideas on how to conquer the world.
It was also amazing to meet the one and only Barbara Evans. Yep, I met Barb…oh, sorry… Seattle Wine Gal (@seattlewinegal for you Twitteraddicts). She is everything you think she is…over the top, smart, intense, fun, and pretty. Don’t underestimate her, she is always thinking, watching and observing. I learned a ton from the brief moments we had to chat during the TasteWA wrap party. She knows her Social Media stuff. Thanks Barb for the ideas and inspiration!
My interview with Jarrod of Alexandria Nicole Cellars
My Interview with Jean-Michele of Pepperbridge
25 Jan 2010
The journey of Barrister Winery began as two lawyers, Greg Lipsker and Michael White, were vacationing with their families in British Columbia and they stopped in a local shop to buy wine and walked out with a five gallon Zinfandel wine making kit. When I asked how it was, Greg responded, “We thought it was wonderful.” “But it wasn’t,” Mike quickly joked.
Five gallons turned into 50 gallons, which then turned into crushing 1 ½ tons in their garage in 2000. “Friends and family were so supportive. When they heard we were making wine, they were eager to help.” Trial and error, conversation with local vintners, and a few courses at Walla Walla College led Greg and Mike to the launch of Barrister Winery in 2001.
Validation came when they submitted their wine to an independent wine making competition and walked away with three gold and a silver. In fact, when you look at the history of Barrister, you’ll see award after award and consistent 90+ point scores in wine magazines. Two lawyers with a small hobby are making quality wine that is drawing world-wide attention.
Barrister is located in an historic 100 year old building in Spokane’s downtown core (Railroad Ave, west of Jefferson). The 25,000 square foot facility houses production, a large single stack barrel room (see video), storage, and an expansive tasting room and event facility. Barrister offers a unique space to host your wedding, reception, corporate event, or special family dinner. Barrister is also the best stop on the First Friday Art Walk in Spokane (often times we’ll stop at Barrister and never leave).
In the early years, Barrister made a name with a unique varietal, Cabernet Franc. Traditionally a blending grape, Mike and Greg have been able to coax something special out of each and every vintage. As you taste through the Barrister collection, you’ll notice a consistent style of fruit forward, full bodied, smooth wines that each have a complex flavor profile. Barrister’s current wine line-up includes the Cab Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc (their only white), and the incredibly delicious Rough Justice blend (reviewed below).
In addition to their current selection of wine, Barrister is excited to launch their wine club. The wine club offers fans the ability receive three bottles, twice per year. Each delivery is two regular Barrister wines and one small lot production wine specially made for wine club members. Club members also get exclusive privilege to buy additional bottles. I’m excited to try the 2006 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Making wine is much more fun than practicing law,” was Greg’s closing argument. The verdict: Barrister is one of Washington’s premier wine makers and Spokane is lucky to have them.
2007 Cabernet Franc
- The Stuff: 88% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley; 690 cases
- The Swirl: Dark plum, opaque, well filtered and beautiful streaky legs
- The Sniff: Bold spice with dark berry fruit, black currant, and hint of blueberry on the back end.
- The Sip: Strong pepper spice, big berry flavor and huge acidity (but not in a bad way). The wine was amazingly smooth and the finish was long and evolved as it dissipated.
- The Score: At $27 retail, I am happy to score this wine a 4 (out of 5). This is a solid wine that is an impressive purchase for any gift, dinner party, or special dinner!
NV Rough Justice Red Blend
- The Stuff: 35% Merlot, 28% Syrah 26% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Swirl: Beautiful dark jewel tone with translucent clarity.
- The Sniff: A-MA-ZING fruit and spice. Very aromatic blackberry, plum and vanilla on the nose. A moderate dose of leather pokes through as well.
- The Sip: A mouthful of jammy berry. If you like bold fruit that is not overly sweet but balanced out with a nice strong acid and spice, you’ll love this wine. The structure of this wine is impressive. Made in a very new-world style that is very impressive.
- The Score: At $20 I score this wine a 5 (out of 5). The wine is beautiful in aroma, strong and balanced in flavor, and immense in structure. This is one blend that if seen on a restaurant wine list that would instantly get my purchase!